The best non-business books that teach business strategy

Who am I?

I am an experienced entrepreneur and venture capitalist and a voracious reader. My reading, particularly of non-business books, is motivated not just by a natural curiosity, but is also driven by a continuous search for metaphors and lessons from outside the traditional business genre that I can apply to situations and decisions in the business arena. My appreciation of the crossover benefit of non-business narratives to business contexts has motivated me to write my own Business Fiction works to “enlighten and entertain.” 

I wrote...

Murder at First Principles

By Ben Wiener,

Book cover of Murder at First Principles

What is my book about?

Murder at First Principles is the debut Startup Fiction novel by successful venture capitalist Ben Wiener. Written as a murder mystery, the plot is designed to enlighten and entertain, introducing readers to Hamilton Helmer’s iconic work, 7 Powers, and its seven market-proven strategies for sustained competitive advantage. Every suspect in this story is hiding something—strap yourself in and try to uncover their secrets while discovering the secret “powers” innovative businesses harness to create persistent differential returns.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of David & Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants

Why this book?

While David and Goliath is generally listed as a “self-help” book, Gladwell’s understanding of the biblical vignette unlocks a profound business strategy that Hamilton Helmer defines as “Counterpositioning” in his book 7 Powers.

Not a weak “underdog” at all, David (the Challenger) defeats Goliath (the Incumbent) by turning Goliath’s very strengths into his weaknesses.

David alters the rules of engagement and confidently strides into battle knowing that he has an excellent chance of success because Goliath, even as he sees David’s strategy unfolding, is incapable of competing David’s way.

David is the quintessential counterpositioner, adopting a model of behavior that Goliath is powerless to employ in response, much like Netflix streaming videos on demand and competing with giant Blockbuster and its megastores filled with physical VHS tapes. Game over.

David & Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants

By Malcolm Gladwell,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked David & Goliath as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Explore the power of the underdog in Malcolm Gladwell's dazzling examination of success, motivation, and the role of adversity in shaping our lives, from the bestselling author of The Bomber Mafia.

Three thousand years ago on a battlefield in ancient Palestine, a shepherd boy felled a mighty warrior with nothing more than a stone and a sling, and ever since then the names of David and Goliath have stood for battles between underdogs and giants. David's victory was improbable and miraculous. He shouldn't have won.

Or should he have?

In David and Goliath, Malcolm Gladwellchallenges how we think about obstacles…

The Science of Hitting

By Ted Williams, John Underwood, Robert Cupp (translator)

Book cover of The Science of Hitting

Why this book?

Warren Buffet cites Ted Williams’ plate discipline as his model for investment selection, and I keep a copy of this book on my shelf with its image of Williams’ strike zone prominently displayed.

Williams was the last major league baseball player to hit over .400 in a season and his insight was that not all strikes are created equal.

He identified the granular, baseball-sized quadrants within the strike zone that represented his “sweet spot” and he maintained supreme discipline to avoid all other pitches.

Of course, baseball is a team sport, not an individual sport, and Williams’ rigid plate discipline often set him at odds with teammates and fans.

But investing is all about picking, and Williams’ discipline and resolve against FOMO are models for astute investors.  

The Science of Hitting

By Ted Williams, John Underwood, Robert Cupp (translator)

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Science of Hitting as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

“Baseball’s last .400 hitter share[s] his secrets in this primer still used at all levels of the game.” —Paul Dickson, author of Bill Veeck: Baseball’s Greatest Maverick

Now fully revised with new illustrations and diagrams, the classic—and still the greatest—book on hitting from the last baseball player to break the magic .400 barrier, Ted Williams.

Ted Williams was arguably the greatest pure hitter who ever lived. A lifelong student of hitting, he sought advice from every great hitter—and pitcher—he met. Drawing on that advice, as well as his own legendary life in baseball, Williams produced the all-time batting classic, The…

Book cover of The European Discovery of America: Volume 1: The Northern Voyages A.D. 500-1600

Why this book?

If you read this book about the early cross-Atlantic explorers and substitute today’s technology entrepreneurs, the metaphors fit cleanly.

They sold exuberant, sometimes-fulfilled, and often-failed stories to profit-seeking backers, took inordinate risks, and results were often winner-take-all.

As Mark Twain, another famous explorer, once said, “History never repeats itself, but it does often rhyme.”

The European Discovery of America: Volume 1: The Northern Voyages A.D. 500-1600

By Samuel Eliot Morison,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The European Discovery of America as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The late Samuel Eliot Morison, a former U.S. Navy admiral, was also one of America's premier historians. Combining a first-hand knowledge of the sea and transatlantic travel with a brilliantly readable narrative style, he produced what has become nothing less than the definitive account of the great age of European exploration. In his riveting and richly illustrated saga, Morison offers a comprehensive account of all the known voyages by Europeans to the New World
from 500 A.D. to the seventeenth century. Together, the two volumes of The European Discovery of America tell the compelling stories of the many intrepid explorers…


By Alfred Lansing,

Book cover of Endurance

Why this book?

Another book about seafarers with deep business lessons.

Lansing’s riveting account of Ernest Shackleton and his wayward crew teaches much about when and how to “pivot.”

W. Brian Arthur wrote, “Entrepreneurship in advanced technology, is not merely a matter of decision-making; it is a matter of imposing cognitive order on situations that are repeatedly ill-defined.”

Few situations in history were as “ill-defined” as the one the Endurance and its crew encountered, and the story highlights how Shackleton maintained discipline, loyalty, motivation, and perseverance among his crew as they “pivoted” to a radically different strategy and planned under intense pressure and with minimal resources.

Basically, a classic true-life startup parable.


By Alfred Lansing,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked Endurance as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In August 1914, polar explorer Ernest Shackleton boarded the Endurance and set sail for Antarctica, where he planned to cross the last uncharted continent on foot. In January 1915, after battling its way through a thousand miles of pack ice and only a day's sail short of its destination, the Endurance became locked in an island of ice. Thus began the legendary ordeal of Shackleton and his crew of twenty-seven men. For ten months the ice-moored Endurance drifted northwest before it was finally crushed between two ice floes. With no options left, Shackleton and a skeleton crew attempted a near-impossible…

Seven Pillars of Wisdom

By T. E. Lawrence,

Book cover of Seven Pillars of Wisdom

Why this book?

Yes, that T.E. Lawrence, of “Lawrence of Arabia” fame.

Turns out that not only was he an exquisite writer, but his account of his years as a British officer who self-embedded with Arab tribesmen during the First World War provides deep lessons for business success.

For starters, just because you’re highly intelligent and educated (Oxford, in his case), don’t assume you must agree with your superiors or yourself about the true motivations and interest of your customers, until you get to know them intimately.

Walk a mile in their shoes – or perhaps thousands of miles in their sandals – and then you might get insights about how to best work with them that might surprise you, and run counter to your prior presumptions.

Seven Pillars of Wisdom

By T. E. Lawrence,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Seven Pillars of Wisdom as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

With an Introduction by Angus Calder.

As Angus Calder states in his introduction to this edition, 'Seven Pillars of Wisdom is one of the major statements about the fighting experience of the First World War'. Lawrence's younger brothers, Frank and Will, had been killed on the Western Front in 1915. Seven Pillars of Wisdom, written between 1919 and 1926, tells of the vastly different campaign against the Turks in the Middle East - one which encompasses gross acts of cruelty and revenge and ends in a welter of stink and corpses in the disgusting 'hospital' in Damascus.

Seven Pillars of…

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in explorers, T. E. Lawrence, and baseball pitchers?

8,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about explorers, T. E. Lawrence, and baseball pitchers.

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